BEST OF 2020: KCRW DJs share the brightest music that shined in not-the-best year

Written by

While the impulse is to banish this year to the history books immediately… It is worth taking a moment and remembering that good things happened in 2020. LA erupted into joy when the Lakers won the NBA Championship, and the Dodgers finally won The World Series! And speaking of the world, we can’t discount the fact that the biggest cheering section by far spanned nations as countless hearts poured out in admiration for the health care workers who are working so hard to ease our collective pain.

So, thank goodness for all the stellar music in a year in which we really needed it.

And as our team of DJ’s began compiling this year’s KCRW’s Best Of 2020, we realized even more how much we were affected by the music and lyrics of these incredible artists. I heard music differently this year. Old songs sounded new and context changed everything. 

Our Best Of Music 2020 list says a lot about everything that we’ve lived through in recent memory. From work built to further engage us in challenging conversations, to pure sonic euphoria, and everything in between. It is truly my honor to present you with KCRW’s Best Of Music, 2020 edition. — Anne Litt, KCRW Program Director of Music


Top 10 AlbumsTop 15 SongsBest New ArtistBest of Today's Top TuneKCRW DJ Favorites


Pasted Image
Pasted Image

10 ALBUMS THAT SHINED IN A WTF YEAR

Intimate chamber pieces circle and spiral into majestic anthems. These albums found their way into our hearts and have permanently set up camp — so much so that we had no choice but to honor a tie at number 1.

  1. Sault - “Untitled (Rise)” and “Untitled (Black Is)”

  2. Fiona Apple - “Fetch The Bolt Cutters

  3. Gabriel Garzón Montano - “Agüita

  4. Run The Jewels - “RTJ4”

  5. Lianne La Havas - “Lianne La Havas” 

  6. Mac Miller - “Circles”

  7. Tame Impala - “The Slow Rush”

  8. St. Panther - “These Days”

  9. Little Dragon - “New Me, Same Us”

  10. Peter CottonTale - “Catch”



Want to keep up with the world's best music? Sign up here for KCRW's music newsletters and never miss a beat. 

Pasted Image
Pasted Image Moses Sumney at BET's Soul Train Awards 2020 in U.S. November 29, 2020. Photo courtesy of BET/Reuters.

15 SONGS THAT BROUGHT JOY INTO OUR LIVES

Quick peek behind the curtain for you. Each KCRW DJ presented a list of the 10 Best Songs of the year. Out of all of them, these 15 came up the most often in equal numbers. So we present them here to you, alphabetically. 

“Look Over Your Shoulder” - (Featuring Kendrick Lamar) - Busta Rhymes
“The Good Life” - Devon Gilfillian
“Brasil” - EOB
“Shameika” - Fiona Apple
“In Loving Memory” - Gabriels
“Love And Hate In A Different Time” - Gabriels
“SULA (Paperback)” - Jamila Woods


“Wolves” - Jensen McRae
“Remember Where You Are” - Jessie Ware
“Grey Skies” - Kate Bollinger
“Time (You and I)” - Khruangbin
“Good News” - Mac Miller
“Virile” - Moses Sumney
“Buenos Aires” - Nathy Peluso
“Real Magic” - Ricky Reed

Pasted Image

MEET THE LA ARTIST WHO YOU OUGHTA KNOW

St Panther

There are so many artists that are on our radar, and it's always hard to pick one. And this year's best new artist for KCRW is St Panther. The minute I saw that video for "Infrastructure," I was like "yo... who is that?" She plays instruments, she raps, she sings, she's got IT. Whatever IT is, it's in her DNA. She just makes that music that helps you get through 2020. - Anthony Valadez.




Pasted Image
Pasted Image

YOU JUST COULDN’T GET ENOUGH OF THESE TOP TUNES

KCRW has shared and offered more than 250 free downloads as Today’s Top Tune this year and we are proud to spotlight the artists that YOU, our audience, have chosen as our collective top picks. Thank you for sharing your love of music (and good taste) with us. — Ariana Morgenstern, Curator, Today’s Top Tune.

“Stand With Each Other” - Nubya Garcia
“Shepherd Song” - Keleketla!
“Apart Together” - Tim Minchin
“Grey Skies” - Kate Bollinger
“Eso Que Tu Haces” - Lido Pimenta
“Look At Me Now” (Acoustic Version) - Emily King
“Power Is Taken” (Featuring D.H. Peligro) - Moby
“Saravá” - Seu Jorge & Rogê
“Turn Me Up” (Featuring Aloe Blacc) - José James
"Blue Comanche" - Westerman



THE YEAR’S BEST MUSIC PICKED BY OUR CRATE-DIGGING GENIUSES

Our intrepid DJs unearthed the best, most interesting gems the music world has to offer. Here are their picks of the year.


Aaron ByrdAnne Litt – Anthony Valadez – Chris Douridas – Dan Wilcox – Garth Trinidad – Jason Kramer – Jeremy Sole – John Moses – José Galván – Novena Carmel – Raul Campos Scott Dallavo – Travis Holcombe – Valida


Aaron Byrd

Songs

"Black 2" - Buddy
"47.48" - Childish Gambino
"Angele Ni Fie" - Juls & Sango
"Miles" - Christelle Bofale
"Ooh LA LA" (featuring Greg Nice & DJ Premier) - Run the Jewels
"Blackbird" - Lady Blackbird
"Maan Mense" (Jota Karloza Remix) - DRUBON
"Remember Where You Are" - Jessie Ware
"Mecca" - Spillage Village, JID & EARTHGANG
"Young Man" - Alexander Mack



Albums

  1. SAULT - "Untitled (Black Is)"
  2. Cleo Sol  - "Rose In The Dark"
  3. Jay Electronica - "A Written Testimony"
  4. Nané - "Nané"
  5. Mac Miller - "Circles"
  6. Aluna - "Renaissance"
  7. Angela Muñoz  - "Adrian Younge Presents: Angela Muñoz Introspection"
  8. Nubya Garcia - "SOURCE"
  9. Ghostpoet - "I Grow Tired But Dare Not Fall Asleep"
  10. Ghost Funk Orchestra  - "An Ode to Escapism"

Favorite New Artist

Nané
Lous and the Yakuza
Angela Muñoz
Jamael Dean
Lady Blackbird



 


Anne Litt

Songs

"Brasil" - EOB
"Love and Hate In A Different Time" - Gabriels
"Real Magic" - Ricky Reed
"Shameika" - Fiona Apple
"SULA (Paperback)" - Jamila Woods
"The Good Life" - Devon Gilfillian
"Wolves" - Jensen McRae
"Under Pressure" - Karen O & Willie Nelson
"Vanishing Twin" - Blake Mills
"Weird Fishes" - Lianne La Havas
"47.48" - Childish Gambino
“Shine” - Cleo Sol
“The End of the Affair” - Laura Marling




Albums

  1. SAULT - "Untitled (Rise)"
  2. SAULT - "Untitled (Black Is)"
  3. Lianne La Havas - "Lianne La Havas"
  4. Peter CottonTale - "CATCH"
  5. EOB - "Earth"
  6. Nation of Language - "Introduction, Presence"
  7. Keleketla! - "Keleketla!"
  8. Fiona Apple - "Fetch The Bolt Cutters"
  9. Angela Muñoz  - "Adrian Younge Presents: Angela Muñoz Introspection"
  10. Jungle Fire - "Jungle Fire"


Favorite New Artist

Angela Muñoz
Lady Blackbird


Anthony Valadez

Songs

"Us (How Sweet It Was)" - Ricky Reed, Jim James & Duendita
"Comic Sans" - Okay Kaya
"Look Over Your Shoulder " (Featuring Kendrick Lamar) - Busta Rhymes
"Good News" - Mac Miller
"Buenos Aires" - Nathy Peluso

"A.P.I.D.T.A." - Jay Electronica
"I’m Amazing" - Omar Apollo
"Little Boy" - SAULT
"fue mejor" - Kali Uchis & PARTYNEXTDOOR


Albums

  1. Mac Miller - "Circles"
  2. Hanni El Khatib - "FLIGHT"
  3. Nathy Peluso - "Calambre"
  4. Gabriel Garzón-Montano - "Agüita"
  5. Omar Apollo - "Apolonio"
  6. St. Panther - "These Days"
  7. Jay Electronica - "A Written Testimony"
  8. Bad Bunny - "YHLQMDLG"
  9. Kali Uchis - "Sin Miedo (del Amor y Otros Demonios) ∞ "
  10. Nick Hakim - "WILL THIS MAKE ME GOOD"


Favorite New Artist

St. Panther
Xinxin


Chris Douridas

Songs

"Shameika" - Fiona Apple
"Wolves" - Jensen McRae
"Dribble" - Sycco
"High Horse" - Early James
"Highway" - St. Panther
"i see america" - Joy Oladokun
"Things I Do" - Andy Shauf

Albums

  1. Andy Shauf - "The Neon Skyline"
  2. Burna Boy - "Twice as Tall"
  3. Early James - "Singing For My Supper"
  4. Fiona Apple - "Fetch The Bolt Cutters"
  5. Gregory Porter - "Revival"
  6. Joji - "Nectar"
  7. Keleketla! - "Keleketla!"
  8. Matthew Halsall - "Salute to the Sun"
  9. Peter CottonTale - "CATCH"
  10. Phoebe Bridgers - "Punisher"
  11. St. Panther - "These Days"




Dan Wilcox

Songs

"Dreamers Change the World" - El Perro del Mar
"Time (You and I)" - Khruangbin
"Sacrifice" - Plants and Animals
"SULA (Paperback)" - Jamila Woods
"Virile" - Moses Sumney
"Music to Clean the House to" - Nick Leng
"I Worry Bout You" - Bombay Bicycle Club
"In Loving Memory" - Gabriels
"Home" - Caribou
"Don't Let Me Die In America" - of Montreal



Albums

  1. Fiona Apple - "Fetch The Bolt Cutters"
  2. SAULT - "Untitled (Black Is)"
  3. SAULT - "Untitled (Rise)"
  4. Fontaines D.C. - "A Hero's Death"
  5. Gabriel Garzón-Montano - "Agüita"
  6. Porridge Radio - "Every Bad"
  7. Run The Jewels - "RTJ4"
  8. Laura Marling - "Song For Our Daughter"
  9. Mac Miller - "Circles"
  10. Fleet Foxes - "Shore"
  11. Mamalarky - "Mamalarky"


Favorite New Artist

Lady Blackbird


Garth Trinidad

Songs

"Grey Skies" - Kate Bollinger
"Better Than I Imagined" (Featuring H.E.R. & Meshell Ndegeocello) - Robert Glasper
"Do You Ever" - James Blake
"See Me" - Emily King
"BIG MAN" (Featuring Shungudzo) - Captain Planet
"Vámono" - Buscabulla
"Bittersweet" - Lianne La Havas
"I Should Go" - James Vincent McMorrow & Kenny Beats
"Spitting Image" - Wye Oak
"If Love Is Overrated" - Gregory Porter
 



Albums

  1. Khruangbin - "Mordechai"
  2. Róisín Murphy - "Róisín Machine"
  3. Little Dragon - "New Me, Same Us"
  4. Jungle Fire - "Jungle Fire"
  5. Onipa - "We No Be Machine"
  6. Run The Jewels - "RTJ4"
  7. Chip Wickham - "Blue to Red"
  8. SAULT - "Untitled (Black Is)"
  9. SAULT - "Untitled (Rise)"
  10. Machinedrum - "A View of U"
  11. A Certain Ratio - "ACR Loco"






Jason Kramer



Albums

  1. The 1975 - "Notes On A Conditional Form"
  2. Fiona Apple - "Fetch The Bolt Cutters"
  3. Jack Garratt - "Love, Death & Dancing"
  4. Jean Dawson - "Pixel Bath"
  5. Jónsi - "Shiver"
  6. Lianne La Havas - "Lianne La Havas"
  7. Moses Sumney - "græ"
  8. Perfume Genius - "Set My Heart on Fire Immediately"
  9. Phoebe Bridgers - "Punisher"
  10. The Neighbourhood - "Chip Chrome & The Mono-Tones"

Favorite New Artist

Jean Dawson


Jeremy Sole

Songs

"Cut Me" - Moses Sumney
"Black Rabbit" - Prince Fatty & Shniece Mcmenamin
"Invisible People" - Chicano Batman
"FATHER FIGURE" (Featuring Royce Da 5'9" & Black Thought) - Tobe Nwigwe
"Bad News" - Aaron Frazer
"Grow Forever" - Lizette & Quevin

"Good News" - Mac Miller
"Give Us Justice" - Thee Sacred Souls


Albums

  1. Surprise Chef - "Daylight Savings"
  2. Gabriel Garzón-Montano - "Agüita"
  3. El Michels Affair - "Adult Themes"
  4. The Gaslamp Killer - "Heart Math"
  5. Tobe Nwigwe - "THE PANDEMIC PROJECT"
  6. Run The Jewels - "RTJ4"
  7. SAULT - "Untitled (Rise)"
  8. Mac Miller - "Circles"
  9. Lido Pimienta - "Miss Colombia"
  10. Son Little - "Aloha"

 



John Moses

Songs

"Acid" - Jockstrap
"96 Neve Campbell" (Featuring Cam and China) - clipping.
"Porque " - Rheinzand
"Fast Learner" (Featuring Purple Tape Nate) - Shabazz Palaces

"Blinding Lights " - The Weeknd
"Rocketship " - 070 Shake
"Savage " - Megan Thee Stallion
"Violent Flowers " - Zoe Polanski
"Cool and Bendable " - Kalbells
"Freeze Tag" (Featuring Phoelix) - Terrace Martin,
Robert Glasper, 9th Wonder & Kamasi Washington




Albums

  1. Jaunt - "All In One"
  2. Pink Siifu & Fly Anakin - "FlySiifu’s"
  3. A. G. Cook - "7G"
  4. SAULT - "Untitled (Rise)"
  5. Vex Ruffin - "LiteAce Frequency"
  6. Very Nice Massage - "Based on the Data"
  7. Discovery Zone - "Remote Control"
  8. The Garden - "Kiss My Super Bowl Ring "
  9. Doctor Fluorescent - "Doctor Fluorescent "
  10. Whitmer Thomas - "Songs from the Golden One"

Favorite New Artist

070 Shake
Discovery Zone
Jaunt
Whitmer Thomas


José Galván

Songs

"Always on my Mind" - Nané
"Cumbia del Monte Fuji" - Frente Cumbiero & Minyo Crusaders
"Apricots" - Bicep
"Si Te Portas Mal (Be Bad)" - Loyal Lobos
"Quema" - Sotomayor
"Asc. Scorpio" - Oracle Sisters
"Take Two (featuring Hollis)" - Chong The Nomad
"You Know It Ain’t" - SAULT

"Alexa!" - The Cool Greenhouse




Albums

  1. Lido Pimienta - "Miss Colombia"
  2. IDLES - "Ultra Mono"
  3. Angelica Garcia - "Cha Cha Palace"
  4. Chicano Batman - "Invisible People"
  5. Cut Worms - "Nobody Lives Here Anymore"
  6. Fontaines D.C. - "A Hero’s Death"
  7. Big Gigantic - "Free Your Mind"
  8. Omar Apollo - "Apolonio"
  9. Run The Jewels - "RTJ4"
  10. Thao & The Get Down Stay Down - "Temple"


Favorite New Artist 

BIIANCO
Chong the Nomad
The Cool Greenhouse



Novena Carmel

Songs

"NTE" - Buscabulla
"Color my life" - Chicano Batman
"Why Don’t You" - Cleo Sol
"Heat Waves" - Glass Animals
"Leimert Day" - Katalyst
"Champion" - Liam Bailey
"Virile" - Moses Sumney
"Crash" - Nilüfer Yanya
"The Cure" - Oddisee
"Real Magic" - Ricky Reed



Albums

  1. Beverly Glenn-Copeland - "Transmissions: The Music of Beverly Glenn-Copeland"
  2. Gabriel Garzón-Montano - "Agüita"
  3. IDLES - "Ultra Mono"
  4. Lianne La Havas - "Lianne La Havas"
  5. Little Dragon - "New Me, Same Us"
  6. Liv.e - "Couldn’t Wait to Tell You..."
  7. Nick Hakim - "WILL THIS MAKE ME GOOD"
  8. SAULT - "Untitled (Black Is)"
  9. SAULT - "Untitled (Rise)"
  10. Wilma Archer - "A Western Circular"

Favorite New Artist

Liv.e
St. Panther


Raul Campos

Songs

"Touch" - Big Wild
"Brasil" - EOB
"The Valley Of The Pagans" (Featuring Beck) - Gorillaz
"Hold On" - DRAMA
"Running Red Lights" (Featuring Rivers Cuomo & Pink Siifu) - The Avalanches 
"Woods" - Mac Miller
"Texas Sun" - Khruangbin & Leon Bridges
"Weekends" - Classixx & Local Natives
"Desire" - Bob Moses & ZHU
"Eternal Summer" - The Strokes
 



Albums

  1. Tame Impala - "The Slow Rush"
  2. Natalia Lafourcade - "Un Canto por México, Vol. 1"
  3. Little Dragon - "New Me, Same Us"
  4. Khruangbin - "Mordechai"
  5. SAULT - "Untitled (Rise)"
  6. Moby - "All Visible Objects [Quarantine DJ Set]"
  7. Wajatta - "Don’t Let Get You Down"
  8. Future Islands - "As Long As You Are"
  9. Gabriel Garzón-Montano - "Agüita"
  10. Poolside - "Low Season"

Favorite New Artist

St. Panther


Scott Dallavo

Songs

"The Good Life" - Devon Gilfillian
"The Higher Love" (Featuring Raashan Ahmad, Carolina Bubbico, Magnus Lindgren & Tommaso Cappellato) - Nicola Conte & Gianluca Petrella
"Feel Good" - Polo & Pan
"Washed in You" - Andrew Ashong & Kaidi Tatham
"Cheesin'" (Featuring Still Woozy, Claud, Melanie Faye & HXNS) - Cautious Clay, Remi Wolf & sophie meiers
"Air 공기 (Featuring Chaanill and Yella) - Blackdoe
"Time (You and I)" - Khruangbin  
"Remember Where You Are" - Jessie Ware

"Buenos Aires" - Nathy Peluso

"Mulholland (featuring Sky)" - Hope Tala




Albums

  1. Luciano - "The Answer"
  2. SAULT - "Untitled (Black Is)"
    SAULT - "Untitled (Rise)"
  3. Hope Tala - "Girl Eats Sun"
  4. Devon Gilfillian - "Black Hole Rainbow"
  5. Peter CottonTale - "CATCH"
  6. St. Panther - "These Days"
  7. Buscabulla - "Regresa"
  8. Wajatta - "Don't Let Get You Down"
  9. Mr. President - "One Night"
  10. Ego Ella May - "Honey For Wounds"


Favorite New Artist

Angela Muñoz
Devon Gilfillian
Lady Blackbird
St. Panther


Travis Holcombe

Songs

"In Loving Memory" - Gabriels
"The Wall & I" - Nation Of Language
"Kane Train" (Featuring Freddie Gibbs) - Machinedrum
"Second Life" (Featuring John FM) - Omar S
"Love And Hate In A Different Time" - Gabriels
"Primavera" - Páula, Povoa & Jerge
"Cumbia Del Pichamán" - Meridian Brothers
"Never Let Me Go" - Cindy
"Look Over Your Shoulder " (Featuring Kendrick Lamar)
- Busta Rhymes
"Potions" - Day Wave



Albums

  1. Nation of Language - "Introduction, Presence"
  2. Fiona Apple - "Fetch The Bolt Cutters"
  3. Alexandra Savior - "The Archer"
  4. 070 Shake - "Modus Vivendi"
  5. SAULT - "Untitled (Rise)"
  6. Childish Gambino - "3.15.20"
  7. Tame Impala - "The Slow Rush"
  8. Girls of the Internet - "Girls FM"
  9. Popcaan - "FIXTAPE"
  10. Liv.e - "Couldn’t Wait to Tell You..."


Favorite New Artist

Gabriels
Liv.e
Nation of Language
Sirens of Lesbos


Valida

Songs

"Grey Skies" - Kate Bollinger
"Come Over" (Featuring Popcaan) - Jorja Smith
"Don’t Turn Around" - Biig Piig
"Free" - SAULT
"Freeway" - Daniel Blake
"Head Down" - Ambar Lucid
"How Many Miles" - Sirens of Lesbos
"Lucky Sue" - Men I Trust
"Paraíso" - Monogem
"SUNRISE" (Featuring Arlo Parks) - MICHELLE


 



Albums

  1. Tame Impala - "The Slow Rush"
  2. Sirens of Lesbos - "Sol"
  3. SAULT - "Untitled (Rise)"
  4. Moodymann - "Taken Away"
  5. Kate Bollinger - "A word becomes a sound"
  6. Kllo - "Maybe We Could"
  7. Benny Yurco - "You Are My Dreams"
  8. Wholesome Fun - "Sunset Boulevard"
  9. The Growth Eternal - "Bass Tone Paintings"
  10. Lianne La Havas - "Lianne La Havas"


Favorite New Artist

Ambar Lucid
SAULT
Sirens of Lesbos